CREDIT: Grace Jennings
Now that Texas has approved a sweeping package of abortion restrictions that threatens to close the vast majority of the clinics in the state, what will it be like to try to get an abortion in the Lone Star State?
That’s what the new video game “Choice: Texas” wants to explore. The “educational interactive fiction game” is still in production, trying to crowdfund the money needed for the project through IndieGoGo. The three women behind it say they hope the game could help illustrate just how difficult it can be to navigate reproductive health care in deeply red states like Texas, where anti-choice lawmakers have enacted so many barriers to it.
They first got the idea last year, but after Texas lawmakers began forcing through an omnibus anti-abortion bill this summer, the project took on a new sense of urgency.
“The game is making a point about how there’s this rhetoric of choice, but it’s really contingent on a lot of factors,” one of the co-developers, Carly Kocurek, explained in an interview with Polygon. “If you live in West Texas do you go to New Mexico to get an abortion there, or do you end up stumbling into a pregnancy crisis center that tries to terrorize you? I really want people to realize how difficult the situations facing a lot of women are. These are horrifying stories, often of middle class women with fairly good access — but it gets much worse at the margins.”
The game allows users to choose one of five different female avatars. Characters include a 35-year-old woman who never planned on having children of her own with her boyfriend, a 19-year-old woman who’s working as a bartender to save up money for her future, a high school student who isn’t ready to be a mother, and a woman who was excited about having a baby but ends up needing to terminate the pregnancy because of a life-threatening medical condition.
The designers say they wanted to create a range of characters to communicate that the ability to have an abortion is largely dependent on each individual woman’s circumstances. They point out that access to reproductive health care is often “shaped by factors of identity, where people live, how much money they make.”
After the news of the project broke, right-wing outlets jumped to criticize the effort. Headlines deride the effort as “Fun with Infanticide!” and teaching women to “find the path to abortion.” But the game isn’t intended to make light of a very real situation — in fact, its tagline points out that it’s “a very serious game” — and Kocurek says it isn’t about promoting abortion as the right choice for every women.
“We’re really working to show why and how people make the choices they do, and what makes those choices especially difficult. Abortion is one of several possible paths the characters might consider or ultimately choose,” she explained. “The problems with reproductive healthcare in Texas go far beyond abortion, although that’s the most visible issue. Many women can’t afford birth control or adequate prenatal care or the hospital bills associated with giving birth.”
Kocurek and her partners, Allyson Whipple and Grace Jennings, hope to launch Choice: Texas early next year as a free browser game. They are accepting donations on their IndieGoGo site through next month.